Well-fed Crickets Seek Sex Incessantly, Die Young

Crickets on the Atkins diet are exceptionally persistent in advertising for a mate, but they pay a high price for their sexual eagerness: They die sooner.

A new study found that well-fed male crickets had a higher survival rate as nymphs, grew faster in early stages and gained weight more quickly as adults.

Then they couldn't shut up.

"Crickets fed a high-protein diet were more likely to call at a younger age, and across their entire life span they actually called more compared to the low-diet males," said lead researcher John Hunt of the University of New South Wales in Sydney, Australia.

The nonstop pleading -- more times every night than their lean counterparts -- caused the well-fed males to burn out. But probably not before the mission could be accomplished.

"All males are likely to have had the ability to mate," Hunt told LiveScience. "If they call, they are sexually mature and able to mate."

Expending extra resources on sexual traits is common in a lot of animals, Hunt said. In most cases, high-quality males are able to put a lot of effort into sex and live longer. Hunt's team wanted to test a recently developed theory suggesting that the approach ought to sometimes backfire.

"To produce elaborate sexual traits is also very costly in many species," Hunt said. "The best quality males that can afford to spend the most on sexual traits may [in some cases] actually suffer higher costs as a result. In the case of the cricket T. commodus, this cost came in a reduced survival."

Females on the higher-protein diet lived longer, with no notable side effects.

The study is detailed in the Dec. 23 issue of the journal Nature.

Robert Roy Britt

Robert is an independent health and science journalist and writer based in Phoenix, Arizona. He is a former editor-in-chief of Live Science with over 20 years of experience as a reporter and editor. He has worked on websites such as Space.com and Tom's Guide, and is a contributor on Medium, covering how we age and how to optimize the mind and body through time. He has a journalism degree from Humboldt State University in California.